Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)

Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein was made in Italy more or les simultaneously with Blood for Dracula. Morrissey had by this time left Andy Warhol’s Factory, and these two films have a definite European visual flavour to them. Although they’re often considered to be rather bizarre spoofs of the horror genre, there’s really a lot more than mere spoofing going on here. The opening and closing sequences with Baron Frankenstein’s children are very very disturbing indeed. In the opening scene the children dissect and then behead a doll, and that really sets the mood for the whole movie. The movie is very funny in parts (provided you have a somewhat twisted sense of humour), there’s rather a lot of gore, and it’s also oddly beautiful. The combination of beauty, gore and perversity are fairly typical of Italian gothic horror, but Morrissey’s very strange, very unemotional and distanced, approach to his material adds a whole new layer to the mix, and a very unsettling one. The blending of the Morrissey trash aesthetic with the European aesthetic works surprisingly well. Joe Dallesandro seems a little out of place, but then the hero of a horror movie always does seem out of place, being an outsider who has somehow become caught up in seriously weird goings-on with which he has no real connection, so it actually works. Udo Kier gives a performance that is truly unforgettable – it’s very very camp, but it’s also amazingly and horrifyingly evil, and yet peculiarly innocent as well. I doubt that any other actor could have produced such a performance.

In Flesh for Frankenstein Baron Frankenstein is trying to create a new and perfect race, but his motives have nothing to do with any desire to benefit humanity. This new race will obey his every order and he will become, in effect, a god. Firstly though he has to persuade them to start producing children. He already has his new Adam and Eve, but his Adam still needs the right head. It has to be the head of a man dominated entirely by sexual desires. The baron’s own sexual desires are unusual, to say the least. He is married to his sister, but necrophilia is also on his personal menu. And not just necrophilia, but necrophilia involving assorted internal organs. Especially the gall bladder! Meanwhile Baroness Frankenstein is amusing herself with the sexual favours of the gardener (Dallesandro). And the two children are much too interested in things they shouldn’t be interested in. The Frankenstein family could be described as just a little on the dysfunctional side.

The Region 4 DVD unfortunately lacks the rather tempting extras that are included in the various R1 and R2 releases, but on the other hand I’m surprised it got a Region 4 release at all. The movie is worth seeing anyway, but Udo Kier’s performance makes it an absolute must-see.

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